Mysterious Book Report Near EnemyNear Enemy by Adam Sternbergh

Crown Publishing/Penguin Random House, $24.00, 306 pages, ISBN 978-0-385-34902-4

Hey! Remember Spademan? He’s the shady character who has boxcutter, will travel and take out your enemies . . . as long as you can pay his fees. He’s the anti-hero operating in a decimated New York City where a radioactive bomb has been set off by terrorists in Times Square. Half the city scattered after that, but many others stayed. The poor live a subsistence life, while the rich live in secure high-rises, zonked out on specially made beds in chemically-induced comas, dreaming their lives away in the limm . . . an alternate world wide web where anything is possible. Well, almost anything. Your electronic self can’t be killed in the limm as long as your physical self is alive and well, back in your fully-protected bed, guarded around the clock by your personal security detail. But that may have changed. It may be possible to kill someone’s electronic avatar in cyberspace . . . and cause their physical body in the real world to die at the same time . . . an unimaginable, totally frightening development.

Near Enemy by Adam Sternbergh is his second Spademan novel, and it follows Shovel Ready, which introduced us to his unique, garbage-man turned assassin protagonist. This time, Spademan takes a contract to kill a man named Lesser. Lesser used to be a gifted programmer, but burned out while working on a secret project. Now he’s a hopper. A hopper is a low life who taps into the limm and spies on other people’s fantasies—a cyberspace peeping Tom. But just as Spademan’s about to fulfill his contract, Lesser wakes up from the limm, screaming that he’s just witnessed someone being murdered in the limm and terrorists are going to attack New York City again, but from within this time. Spademan believes Lesser and defers his contract until he can determine if the threat is real. When he checks, he finds the limm dreamer has died in his bed while plugged in and zonked out . . . a supposed impossibility.

The warning sets Spademan on a new quest for answers with danger at every turn. A power struggle in City Hall, ruthless and opportunistic enemies, an Egyptian radical and a beautiful nurse—who may or may not prove to be an enemy, all impact Spademan’s search for the truth. But his enemies are closing in, forcing him to do something he swore he’d never do again . . . and which Spademan may not survive.

Sternbergh’s prose is cut-to-the-chase lean, his dialogue snaps like a whip and his plots are as twisted as they come! I’m looking forward to many more hours of reading pleasure in the company of Spademan . . . one of the most unique characters to ever come down the literary pike.


John Dwaine McKenna